A SpaceX 9 rocket has launched its top-secret payload into space.
The so-called Zuma mission — which Northrop Grumman arranged to launch with SpaceX on behalf of the U.S. government without public details — lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 8 p.m. EST Jan. 7 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The rocket’s reusable first stage was returned to a landing pad near the launch site about eight minutes after liftoff.
Few details have been revealed about the mission, other than its code name, Zuma. Similarly, next to nothing has been detailed regarding is highly classified payload, though space insiders say the launch’s relatively low thrust projections suggest it is some sort of light spacecraft — possibly a satellite — will be deployed into a low-earth orbit.
A SpaceX webcast of the launch provided flight details only through the first-stage separation and landing. That’s the norm for classified missions.
The Falcon 9’s successful launch followed two consecutive scrubs and 24-hour launch postponements in November, the most recent to allow for payload fairing tests.
“We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer,” SpaceX said after a Nov. 16 scrub.
Weather then pushed a subsequent Jan. 5 scheduling before SpaceX finally was able to launch the highly watched, lowly detailed government payload.
The Hawthorne, Calif.-based won certification to vie for military launch contracts in May 2015.